29 March 2000
Sheep dip threat to unborn children

By FWi staff

CHILDREN and foetuses in the womb can be seriously harmed by organophosphate sheep dips, according to new research.

The claim was made at a London conference organised by the Central Science Laboratory and the Ministry of Agriculture on Wednesday (28 March).

Dr Vyvyan Howard of the Foetal and Infant Toxiopathology Unit at Liverpool University, studied the effects of OP dips on babies.

Exposure to OP dips can damage a fathers sperm and can lead to congenital abnormalities arising in children, he told conference delegates.

During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the unborn foetus is particularly susceptible to any toxins, exposure to OP dips may cause malign effects.

Dr Howards work related to 22 children whose families had been in contact with OP sheep dips.

Young children have a different metabolism to adults, which also makes them more vulnerable to OP dips, he said.

Adverse effects include mental retardation and congenital heart disease, reported the Radio 4 Farming Today programme.

The governments Committee on Toxicity, which looks at evidence concerning OP dips, has never had a remit to look at the effects on children.

Campaigners against OP dips have criticised a new edition of the Health and Safety Executive MS17 guidelines on OP usage.

Elizabeth Sigmund of the OP Information Network said that the document had failed to consider the adverse effects of OP dips on children.

The HSE said the document was primarily aimed at occupational groups but that much of the medical advice could be applied equally to children.

The conference also heard of research which investigated whether some adults are more likely to be susceptible to OPs and badly effected.